The Conservative Party has started another internal war on Europe. Following one in four voters backing Ukip in the Local Elections two weeks ago, panic has gripped David Cameron’s party. Last week Cabinet members Michael Gove and Philip Hammond said they would vote to leave the EU if a referendum was called today as have former big beasts Lord Lawson, Lord Lamont and Michael Portillo, and up to 100 Tory MPs are due to table an amendment in The Queen’s Speech expressing regret that there was no bill on an EU referendum.
David Cameron, who says he is a Eurosceptic but then changed his mind once he was admitted to the Brussels club after becoming Prime Minister, even tried to use the most powerful man in the world, President Obama, to back down his rebels. It didn’t work. So today he has told the country the Conservative Party, not the Government as the Liberal Democrats are arch-Europhiles, will introduce a draft bill ensuring a Referendum on Britain’s continuing membership takes place by force of law after the General Election in 2015.
There’s only one slight problem: this draft bill isn’t worth the paper it is printed on.
Firstly, and this seems to have slipped by Mr Cameron, the Conservative Party is in Coalition with the most ardent EU fanatics in Britain, the Liberal Democrats. Therefore any draft law will have to be tabled as a Private Members’ Bill not a Government Bill. Almost all Private Members’ Bill fail to get past their First reading and those that do such as Gavin Barwell’s Mental Health Discrimination Private Members’ Bill require cross-party support. Secondly, nobody but the Conservative Party (and not all Tory MPs will, especially Europhiles like Ken Clarke and hard-line Eurosceptics) and perhaps a handful of Eurosceptics on the Labour benches will support it. However, even if that was enough for a majority, which it isn’t, Labour leader Ed Miliband has said the British public should not have a referendum, period. So if he orders his own MPs to vote against the EU draft bill then only the Conservative Party (not all Tory MPs) will vote for it with the rest of Parliament voting against it so it will simply not get a majority, and therefore will not even get to Second reading.
It achieves nothing except draw our attention to the fact that David Cameron can do nothing. He lost the General Election in 2010. He does not have a majority. Basic facts, but if remembered would stop our Prime Minister looking like a fool on the world stage.